Monday, January 31, 2011

Back on black

On the ferry

Sunday the fasting was over and I was finally able to get back on the water after two weeks. It was a cool and overcast day that made normally blue water look black and foreboding. It was back on black.

Clyde, Gerard, Tobias and I met at Portugal Cove at 9:00 to take the ferry to Bell Island with the intention of paddling under the protection of its massive cliffs from forecasted westerly winds.


Off the ferry we drove a short distance to The Beach to put-in. Waves were surprisingly dumping on the beach but I timed my put-in and got off without incident. On the water, I watched for a few minutes as the others readied to launch. They soon seal launched and joined me. Oh, the benefits of plastic boats!

Passing the ferry terminal

We got underway and headed in a southerly direction well protected from the winds. Everywhere snow was sprinkled over the landscape like icing sugar on a chocolate cake.

Dominion Pier

The first point of interest as we paddled southerly along the coast of Bell Island is the Dominion Pier.

The Dominion Iron and Steel Company Limited was formed in 1899 and it acquired submarine claims to iron ore on Bell Island. It also acquired limestone deposits at Port au Port. It exported both natural resources to Sydney, Cape Breton where it had erected blast furnaces and a steel mill.

Scotia Pier

Next along the shore are the remains of the Scotia Pier from which iron ore was also shipped.

In 1893 the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company purchased the iron ore land rights from the Butler brothers of Topsail and made first shipment of iron ore from this pier. The company later built blast furnaces at Sydney Mines, Cape Breton for smelting the ore and steel mills at New Glasgow for fabrication.

The story is an old one ... natural resources exported to furnish jobs in other lands. Not much remains of the old pier.

Lance Cove

We arrived at Lance Cove and stopped to answer the call of nature.


Not all the water was frozen. Here Clyde checks out excess water draining off the land next to icicles clinging to the vertical cliff walls.

The sun came out

The sun came out and things really brightened up.

Then a bit of snow

The sun didn't stay long as a snow squall blew in. It was that kind of day, a day of contrasts. But it didn't deflate our spirits. It just added to the ambiance.

The Beaumont Hamel arrives

The ferry from Portugal Cove arrived as we were returning to The Beach. Too late to catch this one but we'd get on the Flanders for a return ride from Bell Island.

A shortish paddle of about 15 kms but it was good to get out again. Though the weather wasn't the greatest, none of us felt the cold and were quite comfortable all day. Thanks Clyde, Gerard and Tobias for sharing the day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How much gear is enough?

Paddle partners

On Tuesday past Malcolm did a presentation on how he outfits his kayak with all the gear laid out on display. There was a pile of stuff. Its understandable because Malcolm and Des frequently paddle together and they paddle in challenging conditions often far from shore.

The vast majority of people paddle on fair weather days close to shore and in larger groups. I doubt they are as well outfitted. I know myself I have to improve in that sense. Often on those fair weather days all I have in my day hatch is lunch.

Even on good weather days the weather can change unexpectedly, someone may get trashed in a rock garden or suffer some other calamity. That doesn't mean everyone should carry an EPIRB but enough safety gear should be carried to deal with any possible event in the area being paddled. Better to be safe than sorry.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Outfitting your kayak

Malcolm approaching Cape Broyle

Last night Malcolm was the presenter at Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador Club's talk on outfitting your kayak. These talks and presentations are part of the club's winter activities for members when most have put away their kayaks.

It seemed like a simple enough topic but, as usual, there's always something to learn from the experience of others. Malcolm had quite a pile of safety gear on display and spoke on each item. Some of the items he discussed were his flare storage system, communications equipment comprised of VHF radio, SPOT unit and EPIRB and two tow systems.

All of this was well thought out and strategically placed on or in the kayak. For example, the VHF radio and SPOT are kept on the foredeck. The EPIRB is the final fallback and is kept in his PFD. Its kept in the PFD in case he gets separated from his boat and therefore the VHF and SPOT.

The flares (handheld and parachute) are stowed under the deck. A smoke canister is kept in the dayhatch due to its size.

I'm glad I went. I regret to say by attending I discovered I still have a pile of stuff I could buy. For example, I thought I was all set with my VHF only to realize it has no backup in case it fails. Oh well, in a survival situation these purchases may pay off; you won't want to discover then money in the bank is of little use.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Getting soft?


Fifth time at the pool last night this "off season" with every intention of getting there as much as I can for the rest of the pool sessions. I hesitated to go to the pool in the past because I thought I'd lose my cold acclimatization by doing so. I mean, I thought I'd go soft.

I was wrong. Now I wish I'd started going a few years ago. We only have a few weeks in the summer when extended immersion is not a problem. The pool is giving me a chance to ingrain the things I'm learning with an extended run in warm water and its paying off.

With some luck we'll have a paddle on Saturday with some snow in the forecast but I'm already looking forward to next Tuesday's pool date.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Werner Camano paddle update

A paddle in Placentia Bay

I have a Werner Camano paddle that I bought in 2008. I paddle it with an offset of 30 degrees. The scale is printed on stickers that make it easy to set up but last Tuesday after thee years use the sticker came off and floated away in the pool.

I posted an entry on this two posts back and indicated I would mail Werner to suggest the scale could be permanently stamped into the paddle shaft. Well, today, the first business day after I mailed them, I got a reply.

Shannon indicated they started to screenprint the offsets on the inside of the shafts in 2009 and offered to send new stickers.

That's first rate service and says a lot about their product.

Looking back

A nice day in June

We had a narrow window yesterday to get in a short float before another Nor'Easter blew in with snow and rain. It didn't work out as it seemed everyone was waiting for something to happen.

So, I finally took the time to organize and back-up my kayaking pictures. Two years of pictures took a few hours but it was nice to look back at some of the paddles I've been on. Above is a shot of Dave on the evening of June 15, 2009 when we went out and around Kelly's Island.

Sometimes life is a rush and I don't always take the time to attend to things that I really should. I'd hate to think how I'd feel if I lost these pictures but now I can relax.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Two piece paddles

No offset Greenland paddle

I have a Werner Camano paddle and I'm very happy with it with one exception recently discovered.

The two piece paddle can be offset from neutral in increments of 15 degrees. The scale is printed on a decal glued to the paddle shaft. That's great but its subject to wear and tear. Tuesday evening the decal took a beating at the pool and off it drifted. That got me to thinking, why don't they engrave the scale into the paddle shaft itself? Doing so would permanently stamp the scale on the paddle.

Maybe I'll drop them a line with that suggestion.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm your captain

Grabbing a shower

I am the captain of my ship.

I'm also the first mate, navigator, engineer, deck hand, cook etc.

There's no redundancy, back-up or separation of duties and responsibilities. If any of the above make a mistake they all have to suffer the consequences. Therefore, exercise good judgement and paddle safely.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The SmartPhone


Its winter. Its cold outside. There's snow on the ground. The sky is cloudy and gray.

What to do?

"There's an app for that."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

After the storm paddle

Leaving Long Pond

What to do a day after 38 cms of snow, 2 hours shoveling, 2 hours in the gym and another hour to shovel out my daughter's driveway? Paddle of course!

Thursday we had our first taste of winter as a Nor'Easter barreled into the region out of the New England states. Friday was clean-up day and Saturday was an OMG day.

Gerard in his element

A beautiful day to be out on the water. It was cool but pleasant, sunny with cloudy periods, no wind to speak of and a nice swell on the bay. The land (to port) in Conception Bay is made up of low laying glacial tills, densely populated with houses crowding the shoreline. There's not much of photographic interest. On this day the land in the distance with its snow covered hills drew my attention.

In the shadow of Butterpot

As we approached Indian Pond we could see the smokestacks of the hydro generating plant while Butterpot Mountain looms in the distance.

Stopped for lunch

Twelve kilometres from Long Pond we reached our destination of Indian Pond. These places aren't really "ponds", they're estuaries that are open to the sea.

While we had 38 cms of snow, here in the southern end of Conception Bay there was considerably less snow evident. The sea moderates the temperature somewhat and a couple of degrees armer makes all the difference.


On our return leg Clyde and I paddled along together while Gerard paddled considerably offshore. Clyde is not far away, he's out of sight on the other side of the massive swell rolling in.

When the swell reached the shore there was a massive collision. We stayed just outside the zone where the swell raised up into steep breaking waves as they raced for the shore.

Kelly's Island backdrop

Clyde paddles along with Kelly's Island behind him and the snow covered hills in the distance.

"Royal" Newfoundland Yacht Club

Two kilometres from our put-in we passed the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club and were almost done for the day. There was no sign of activity at the club unless it was inside at the bar! Maybe they were checking us out thinking they should have invested in kayaks instead?

Arriving back at Long Pond we had paddled 24 kms on the day. I knew I would sleep like a log when night time came ... and I did.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rolling 101

Careful what you believe

The last issue of KNL's newsletter "Ebb & Flow" has an advertisement for Mountain Equipment Co-op. Its a sticker mock-up that should be affixed to foredeck. If you enlarge it you will see its advice is to place nose on the X, sweep and hip flick. That's advice I've read and been told before but I don't pay any attention to it anymore.

In an eureka moment last fall, upside down, I reached up and out to the side a bit towards the bow, sweep and effortlessly I was up. By reaching out to the side more the roll starts with the body closer to the surface at the start of the roll.

Sometimes its satisfying to learn these things by yourself and then to be vindicated by someone like Ken Whiting. Check out his rolling video on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Slowed to a crawl

Rock garden off Kelligrews

Winter is a time when most paddlers put away their paddling gear and dream about warmer weather when they can get out again. Myself and a bunch of fellow kayakers paddle all year round. The cold doesn't bother us. After all, the technology we're taking advantage of was developed in that climate.

But this year the weather hovers between winter and fall. Wet windy dreary days that are too miserable to make dragging out the kayak worthwhile.

But we live in hope. The first thing I check in the morning is the weather forecast. Today - good news. The long range forecast for Saturday is mainly sunny, 0 degrees C with west winds at just under 10 knots.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The power of water

Some forgot their kayaks

A friend sent me some pictures taken just after Christmas at Middle Cove Beach. Those of us who live here and are familiar with the beach will appreciate the extraordinary conditions captured. The edge of the water is normally some 75 metres from the foreground rocks.

A series of strong Nor'Easters really had the water in a state of frenzy. These kids were lucky as no one was hurt. But water can be very powerful as we who paddle on it know well.

Its power impacts us most when we paddle in rock gardens. An unusually large or rogue wave can appear out of nowhere to send us sidesurfing into the rocks. Waiting, watching and mental calculations are the keys to safety before venturing through a rock garden.

The sea is powerful; discretion is sometimes the best part of valour.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Get real

Typical good day on the sea

Looking through some old Sea Kayaker mags recently for articles on paddle strokes. It was like a light bulb went on. All the pictures to demonstrate the techniques were shot on flat, calm water in protected areas.

Anyone that's been out in moderately active water and wind knows that things work differently compared to flat calm water. A bow rudder to change direction works very smoothly in calm water. I work on it at Topsail Pond trying to consistently turn 90 degrees. Turning up into a 20 knot wind in 1 metre seas is a horse of a different colour. Maybe its just me but I can't get the same tight turning radius.

What I'd like to see is some discussion and pictures that address paddling strokes and blending in more realistic conditions. Then I'd know if it was just me or that I'm doing about the same as everyone else.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rock garden rescue

On the rocks

Recently we did a short paddle close to home during which we had to do a rescue.

It ended well but two of us made mistakes.

Me first. Close to home and in good conditions I left my tow system behind in the car thinking in such circumstances it wouldn't be needed. I was right only because two of the four had their tow ropes. I could have been wrong had one of those guys also gotten into difficulty.

The rescuee, I'll call Netsook (a name out of a grade 3 geography text for anonymity *lol*) got caught in a small rock garden by a large surge, went over and had to wet exit. Three of us looked on with some concern as he and his boat got trashed around badly by the waves. He managed to get up onto the rocks battered and bruised.

I felt helpless because I was without my tow rope. It fell to Dean and Sean to effect the rescue. Dean suggested the boat be pushed out so it could be towed out of the rock garden. Netsook then jumped back in the water and swam out to where Sean could pull him to safety.

What did I learn? Never leave any safety gear behind under any circumstances. I should also have had a throw bag. Or, had I had my tow rope, I would have been able to clip in and use the bag part as a "throw bag".

Furthermore, if I had my tow rope, I could have clipped Dean in before he ventured into the rock garden so that he could be pulled out had he gotten himself into trouble.

We regularly practice assisted rescues but haven't practiced an extraction and rescue. I know we will be in the future. We were lucky there were no dire consequences; thing is to learn from it. That's why I'm sharing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life after work

Retirement option

A recent survey of Canadians disclosed nearly 70% of them plan to work after retirement. Of those 70%, 72% plan to work in order to remain mentally and physically active, 57% to stay socially active.

I have a better option ... go buy a kayak and use it to get the mental, physical and social benefits. That's what I did. The physical and mental benefits of kayaking are obvious. Only I didn't consider that there might be social benefits. I didn't consider I'd meet a great bunch of people that would develop into friendships.

Now I have to plug in my musical brain to prepare for guitar practice. No time for work!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Common sense

St. Philips on a good day

What do ya do when this, looks like ...

St. Philips on a not so good day

this ... something other than kayak!

We had planned a Christmas Eve paddle like we did for the first time last year. A powerful Nor'Easter descended on Newfoundland the week leading into Christmas. It, combined with an unusually high tide, drove a lot of water into Conception Bay. The strong winds pushed the water into breaking waves that almost swallowed the wharf.

Sizing up the situation we canned plans for a paddle; it just wasn't safe. It was a huge disappointment but it came down to safety as it always should. There's no need for bravado, no need to prove anything only to paddle another day.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Day paddle

The open road

We have a tradition in our area on the Avalon of gathering for a quick New Year's Day paddle. Started by Jim P, its basically like a pool session but outside and bigger. People come and just hang out or paddle around.

Clyde and I were early so we bolted for the open road and did a quick little 2 km trip up to Small Point.

Moving waters

We paddled out past Small Point until we could see Sugarloaf Head looming in the distance. Out here in St. John's Bay the water is always in motion as Clyde would sometimes pop in and out of view.

Hangin' around outside the Gut

When Clyde and I got back to Quidi Vidi we found that the rest of the New Year's Day paddling crowd had arrived and was on the water. People just paddled about or drifted in their boats engrossed in conversations with friends. The weather cooperated to allow us to exit Quidi Vidi proper and hang out in the entrance to the Gut. The movement of paddlers was fluid so counting the total out for the day was difficult but I believe the total was 20.

Taking pictures of picture takers

Good friend Stan was out too taking pictures for his Kayaking Dreamin' blog.

Havin' a good time

Everyone was having a good time. Here another fellow kayak blogger Mike (Baihiu) zooms by.

A family that paddles together

The numbers were swelled with Newfoundland's first family of kayaking, the Carrolls, Mom, Dad, two sons and their girlfriends. Here they're having a chat in front of typical waterfront properties in quaint Quidi Vidi.

If a New Year marks a new beginning, then we've had a good start to 2011. I am an optimist and I'm sure that all things kayak will get even better in the year ahead. We live in hope!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The numbers are in

Final paddle for 2010

On December 28th four of us met for a short day paddle to sweep out the lethargy of Christmas turkey, spirits and other overindulgence. It was my 107th time in the kayak this year. It was a huge year by any account but a little short of the previous.

I managed 44 day trips for a total of at least 850 kilometres paddled. I had 34 outings at St. Philips where we practiced paddle strokes and various rescues. That made for 78 times the kayak saw salt water.

I made 4 pool sessions and spent 25 days in fresh water at Topsail Pond.

Another centenarian

December 28th also marked Dean's 100th time in his boat in 2010. Congratulations Dean.

So, we're into another trip around the sun and we'll see what the new year brings. I'll mull over this year's targets in the next few days but most of all I'll wish for a year without kayak fatalities.

Happy New Year paddlers one and all!